Monday, January 28, 2013

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, by Brady Udall

When I picked up this book, I wasn't aware that it was by the author of The Lonely Polygamist, which has been on my list for awhile (although my husband tried to read it and couldn't get into it). Brady Udall comes from a political Mormon family, and many of his books have Mormon themes or characters.

This book has taken me, literally, weeks to get through.  I started it back in December before my surgery and put it aside for a bit while recovering because it is quite heavy. This was not an easy read--not only does it take some time to get into (Udall tends to have a meandering writing style) but also because it is so sad. It reminded me a lot of The Power of One, but I liked this one better.

Edgar Mint was born to an Apache mom and a white dad, both of whom abandoned him. When he was seven years old, the mailman ran over his head...he miraculously survived, but his life deteriorated from there. He traverses a series of temporary homes, from a long-term stay in a decrepit hospital and a horrible boarding school for Native Americans to a foster home of kind but dysfunctional Mormons. He has a few people who are looking out for him, but they are all totally screwed up. Edgar finds comfort in typing out his angst every evening on his classic typewriter.

One thing I found really bizarre and a bit offputting was Udall's style of alternating between first person and third person, often in the same paragraph and sometimes even in the same sentence. I guess it was to show how Edgar was trying to distance himself from his own life and experiences...I'm not sure.

Although I found this book to be sad and a bit slow, it is a classic reminder of how desperately children need nurturing, comfort, and wise guidance. I am happy to say that it has an ending of redemption.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Fifty shades of meh


No, I haven't read it and I do not plan to. I'm a book snob. Once I heard it was Twilight fan fiction, I couldn't bear the thought...even though my mother-in-law has read it! (Ten Reasons I Hate Twilight)

This wonderful review on is all I need!

This fifty-shades-of-gray phenomenon is completely ridiculous, if you ask me:

We love to joke about it at my book group...but no, we are not reading it! One of our book group members has a coworker (a man!) who gave her the book to read.

Really, wearing handcuffs on a necklace?

The writer is British (which, from what I've read, is obvious in the book, as she doesn't know the U.S. very well). I love this line in the review linked above,
"In fact, the book from whence he sprang, steely and sleek with enigmatic man-sweat, is now the best-selling book in British history.  AND THEY INVENTED ENGLISH! (Both the language AND the wimpy accent!)" 
Who are you calling wimpy?

But it's also extremely popular in the U.S., especially New England.

Here's a fun parody.

I ask you, just like I couldn't understand what Bella saw in Edward, why on earth would a woman want a man to "boss her around, treat her like a foolish child, tell her she’s your “property” and basically take her completely and totally for granted"? What is so attractive or sexy about that? I just don't understand!

And I ask you:

Loud in the House of Myself

Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange GirlLoud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl, by Stacy Pershall

I picked this one up at random at the library...I had never heard of Stacy Pershall...little did I know she was an Internet sensation (and not necessarily in a good way).

Pershall grew up in the small town of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, and she never really fit in there. Pershall's mom pours all of her attention on her brother. She refers to her father's anger, but we don't get much detail on that.

Fast forward to adolescence, when she develops anorexia and bulimia, followed by (or concurrent with) bipolar and borderline personality disorder. She becomes highly self-destructive and somehow, amazingly successful given the self-destructive behavior (she lands a job as adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts after earning her M.A., somehow!).

Each time she seemed to pull her life together, her mental illness struck again. (She even got married for awhile.) As one of the Internet's first "camgirls," Pershall broadcast one of the first online suicide attempts (and only one of many of hers) before shutting down her site. She found comfort by making tattoos of the things that scared or saddened her.

This book shed a lot of light for me on mental illness, particularly bipolar and borderline diseases. I would have liked to have learned more about her childhood and any thoughts she had about what led her to these illnesses. (Was it genetic? Environment?) She seems to have a tenuous relationship with her parents now, but what happened to her brother?

This was a raw, terribly honest memoir about all the mistakes Pershall has made in her life. I'd expect nothing less from someone who bared her soul (and clothing) for the Internet.

Most of the book is about her illness, and only an epilogue provides some closure. She seems to have it together now...but I felt that we were missing something in the journey to success. Maybe there's a Part 2 in progress?

View Stacy's book trailer to get a clearer picture of her.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Maisie Dobbs: Cross between Downton Abbey and Sherlock Holmes

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1)Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear

A friend recommended I try out Maisie Dobbs for my post-surgery recovery because I find I lack mental energy when I'm in pain and on pain meds. (My brain just doesn't work right!) After my Joanna Trollope waste of time, I finally dove into Maisie Dobbs. I was beginning to worry that I'd lost my passion for reading from the brain surgery I had, but I'm happy to report that I'm getting back into the swing of things. Maisie Dobbs was just the ticket, although it took a little getting into in the beginning.

Maisie Dobbs is the daughter of a costermonger (a street seller of fruits and vegetables) and after her mother dies, she's taken into service because her dad cannot afford to take care of her. Soon Lady Rowan (lady of the house) takes her on as a project after noting Maisie's keen intelligence. She's tutored by Rowan's friend Maurice, who helps her prepare for Cambridge entrance exams. However, after a year of studying at Cambridge's women's college (in those days they didn't actually bestow degrees on women, but they were allowed to study), she decides her country needs her. She signs up as a nurse and is sent to France. After returning from France, she sets up her own business as a private investigator.

Much of this first book in the series is used to set up the character of Maisie. She takes on a case that requires her to delve into her own sad history in the war and her one true love. The book starts in the present (well, 1929), but then flashes back to her childhood, life in service, and time during the war. I found those pieces the most interesting because I wanted to get to know more about Maisie. Winspear slowly unravels the secrets of Maisie's past and her own tragic life.

Like Downton Abbey, it tackles themes of British class mores and the impact that World War I had on its participants. For example, both the show and the book feature stories about soldiers who deserted in cowardice and were shot.

I'm not sure how realistic this series likely is it for the aristocracy to actually invest in one of their young housemaids to help them better themselves? She seems to fit in well at Cambridge, but all we really see about that part of her life is her close friendship with her roommate. How did she do with her studies? Not sure.

I really enjoyed this novel but it wasn't perfect. I found some details lacking, but I will keep reading in the hopes that it will only improve! I'm curious to learn more about Maisie--she's an interesting character.